"The English continental colonies," says Bancroft, "were, in the aggregate, always opposed to the African slave-trade. Maryland, Virginia, even Carolina, alarmed at the excessive production and consequent low price of their staples, at the heavy debts incurred by the purchase of slaves on credit, and at the dangerous increase of the colored population, each showed an anxious preference for the introduction of white men; and laws designed to restrict importation of slaves are scattered copiously along the records of colonial legislation. The first Continental Congress which took to itself powers of legislation gave a legal expression to the well-formed opinion of the country, by resolving (April 6, 1776) `that no slaves be imported into any of the thirteen United Colonies."" a As to the number of slaves actually imported during colonial days, the same historian says:
It is not easy to conjecture how many negroes were imported into the English continental colonies. The usual estimates far exceed the truth. Climate came in aid of opinion to oppose the introduction of them. * * * From the first they appear to have increased, though, owing to the inequality of the sexes, not rapidly in the first generation. Previous to the year 1740 there may have been introduced into our country nearly 130,000; before 1776 a few more than 300,000. b
The Duke de Rochefoucault Liancourt, who traveled in the United States in 1795, says: "Nearly twenty vessels from the harbors of the United States are employed in the importation of negroes to Georgia and to the West India Isles." The duke designates the merchants of
was solemnly debated in the Assembly of Virginia. `They were very anxious for an act to restrain the introduction of people, the number of whom already in the colony gave them just cause to apprehend the most dangerous consequences. * * * Virginia resolved to address the King himself, who in council had cruelly compelled the toleration of the nefarious traffic. They pleaded with him for to protect themselves against the nefarious traffic, and these were the words:
"`The importation of slaves into the colonies from the coast of Africa hath long been considered as a trade of great inhumanity, and, under its present encouragement, we have too much reason to fear, will endanger the very existence of Your Majesty's American dominions. We are sensible that some of Your Majesty's subjects in Great Britain may reap emolument from of the colonies with more useful inhabitants, and may in time have the most destructive influence, we presume to hope that the interest of a few will be disregarded when placed in competition with the security and happiness of such numbers of Your Majesty's dutiful and loyal subjects.
"`Deeply impressed with these sentiments, we most humbly beseech You Majesty to remove all those restraints on Your Majesty's governors of this colony which inhibit their assenting to such laws as might check so very pernicious a commerce."
"`In this manner Virginia led the host who alike condemned slavery and opposed the slave-trade. Thousands in Maryland and New Jersey were ready to adopt a similar petition; so were the Legislatures of North Carolina, of Pennsylvania, of New York. Massachusetts, in its towns and in its Legislature, unceasingly combated the holding as well as the sale of slaves. There was no jealousy among one another in the strife against the crying evil. Virginia harmonized all opinions, and represented the moral sentiment and policy of them all. When her prayer reached England, Franklin, through the press, called to it the sympathy of the people. Again an again it was pressed upon the attention of the ministers. But the Government of that day was less liberal than the tribunals; and while a question respecting a negro from Virginia led the courts of law to an axiom, that as soon as any slave sets his foot on English ground he becomes free, the King of England stood in the path of humanity and made himself the pillar of the slave-trade. Wherever in the colonies a disposition was shown for its restraint, his servants, were peremptorily ordered to maintain it without abatement." (Bancroft's History of the United States, Vol.6, pp.413,414, and 415.)
In the entire history of Great Britain there is scarcely a more disgraceful page.
a Bancroft's United States, Vol.3, p.411.
b Bancroft's United States, Vol.3, p.407.